Eshleman has been translating since the early 1960s. He and José Rubia Barcia jointly prepared The Complete Posthumous Poetry of César Vallejo (1978) and won the U.S. National Book Award in category Translation. He has also translated books by Aimé Césaire (with Annette Smith), Pablo Neruda, Antonin Artaud, Vladimir Holan, Michel Deguy and Bernard Bador. In 2006, a translation of The Complete Poetry of Cesar Vallejo, with an introduction by Mario Vargas Llosa, was published to much acclaim, won the 2008 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets, and was shortlisted for the 2008 International Griffin Poetry Prize.
Eshleman founded and edited two of the most seminal and highly regarded literary magazines of the period. Twenty issues of Caterpillar appeared between 1967 and 1973. In 1981, while Dreyfuss Poet in Residence at the California Institute of Technology, Eshleman founded Sulfur magazine. Forty-six issues appeared between 1981 and 2000, the year its final issue went to press. Eshleman describes his experience with the journal in an interview which appeared in an issue of Samizdat (poetry magazine).
Sometimes he is mentioned in the company of the "ethno-poeticists" associated with Jerome Rothenberg, including: Armand Schwerner, Rochelle Owens, Kenneth Irby, Robert Kelly, Jed Rasula, Gustaf Sobin, and John Taggart. Over the course of his life, his work have been published in over 500 literary magazines and newspapers, and he has given readings at more than 200 universities. He is now Professor Emeritus at Eastern Michigan University.
In the fall of 2005, Clayton and his wife Caryl were in residence at the Rockefeller Study Center at Bellagio on Lake Como, Italy, where he studied Hieronymus Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights" and wrote a 67-page work on the triptych in poetry and prose, "The Paradise of Alchemical Foreplay".
For over thirty years, Clayton Eshleman has studied Ice Age cave art of southwestern France. In June 2006, the Eshlemans plan to be in France to lead their 8th cave tour to the painted/engraved Ice Age caves for the Ringling College of Art and Design.
- Indiana: poems, Black Sparrow Press, 1969
- Altars, Black Sparrow Press, 1971
- Human wedding, Black Sparrow Press, 1973
- Coils, Black Sparrow Press, 1973, ISBN 9780876851548
- Realignment: poems and an essay, Treacle Press, 1974, ISBN 9780914232025
- The gull wall, Black Sparrow Press, 1975, ISBN 9780876852361
- What she means, Black Sparrow Press, 1978, ISBN 9780876853474
- The lich gate, Barrytown/Station Hill Press, 1980, ISBN 9780930794200
- Fracture, Black Sparrow Press, 1983, ISBN 9780876855812
- Mistress spirit: poems, Arundel Press, 1989, ISBN 9780923980108
- Hotel Cro-Magnon. David R. Godine Publisher. 1989. ISBN 9780876857601.
- Under world arrest, Black Sparrow Press, 1994, ISBN 9780876859353
- Nora's Roar, Illustrated by Nora Jaffe, Rodent Press, 1996, ISBN 9781887289115
- From scratch. David R. Godine Publisher. 1998. ISBN 9781574230703.
- Juniper Fuse: Upper Paleolithic Imagination & the Construction of the Underworld. Wesleyan University Press. 2003. ISBN 9780819566058.
- Everwhat, Zasterle, 2003, ISBN 9788487467387
- My Devotion. David R. Godine Publisher. 2004. ISBN 9781574231922.
- An Alchemist with One Eye on Fire (Black Widow Press, 2006). ISBN 9780976844952
- Reciprocal Distillations. Hot Whiskey Press. 2007. ISBN 9780978693305., a collection of poems on art and artists, including Caravaggio, Leon Golub, Unica Zürn, Henri Michaux, Corot, Joan Mitchell, Henry Darger, African sculpture, Neolithic standing stones, and the Upper Paleolithic Chauvet Cave.
- Companion Spider: Essays. Wesleyan University Press. 2010. ISBN 9780819570581.
- César Vallejo (2006). Clayton Eshleman, ed. The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520932142.
- "National Book Awards – 1979". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-10.
There was a "Translation" award from 1966 to 1983.
- "Sulfur and After: An Interview with Clayton Eshleman"
- Eshleman's official website
- Clayton Eshleman Author Homepage @ EPC
- UBUWEB: Ethnopoetics curated by Jerome Rothenberg
- Sulfur Homepage lists the contents of every issue and info to purchased back issues
- Interview with Eshleman from Samizdat (poetry magazine)
- Vallejo, the bard of Peru John Timpane reviews The Complete Poetry (A Bilingual Edition), Translated by Clayton Eshleman
- Poem by Clayton Eshleman
- Hot Whiskey Press official website
- Griffin Poetry Prize biography
- Griffin Poetry Prize reading, including video clip
- Promethian Risk, essay by Clayton Eshleman in Griffin Poetry Prize blog
- Clayton Eshleman reads poems and discusses his poetry in a radio interview on Bookworm, May 29, 2008
- Works by or about Clayton Eshleman in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Deep Thermal, a portfolio of poetry in response to the paintings of Mary Heebner, Simplemente Maria Press, 2007.
- Eight Poems from "LIFE IN THE FOLDS" by Clayton Eshleman, Ygdrasil, A Journal of the Poetic Arts, April 2005.